Packers Take Away Newton's Chance at Upset

This one was ugly from the start. But when you have designs on winning a Super Bowl title, sometimes you win ugly. The Packers found themselves trailing the Panthers 13-0 in the second quarter--the largest deficit they've faced since the '09 season.

But on a day when Cam Newton added to his burgeoning legend with a second consecutive 400 yard day, it was his three interceptions that allowed the Packers to hold off the Panthers and improve to 2-0. Mike McCarthy is now a perfect 6-0 in home openers.

As for Newton, he was beyond impressive. This stat says it all: in NFL history, there have been four 400 yard passing days by a rookie. Newton has two of them in two career starts. The Packers sacked him four times, but he was able to elude the pass rush for much of the day and had lots of time to find receivers. After a 150 yard first quarter where his tight ends, Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey were consistently wide open, the Pack switched to more zone coverage. From then on, the screen game worked well and his receivers made some big third down catches to keep them in the game late.

After two games, the Packers defense has given up two 400 yard passing days. Concerning? Yes. But there's plenty of time to figure things out. On a positive note, the run defense was ferocious: eliminating DeAngelo Williams from the attack and forcing Carolina to be one-dimensional. And like the opener, the defense stood tall and made big plays when it needed to. Cornerback Tramon Williams missed the game: he would have drawn the Steve Smith assignment for much of the game and allowed Charles Woodson to move around more.

Instead, Woodson played more in coverage and delivered a brilliant performance, with two interceptions and a forced fumble. Morgan Burnett had another strong outing--forcing Steve's Smith's fumble.

The offense got its act together in the second half, once Mike McCarthy remembered that running the ball was allowed in the NFL. I know he was behind in the first half, but there's no excuse for four rushing attempts in the first half. James Starks busted some nice runs on the first drive of the third quarter--putting play action in play, and voila: Rodgers and Jennings hooked up on a long touchdown pass. Through two games it's clear as day that Starks is the Pack's best running back--and it's not close.

At the time of this post, it appears that Nick Collins is going to be okay. His head collided with Jonathan Stewart's backside and he was carted off the field. After spending Sunday night in Charlotte as a precaution, he will return to Green Bay for additional tests--but he had "normal feeling and complete movement in his extremities," according to a Packer press release Sunday night.

The Pack will need him and Williams back in the secondary next week when they head to Soldier Field for a huge early season divisional game against the Bears. Chicago got pounded by the Saints and will be ready for a hard-hitting defensive tug of war. Green Bay will take the field tied atop the North with the Lions, who put up 48 on the Chiefs and look like a team that has officially arrived.

The Packers have not yet arrived with a complete performance in 2011. They're going to need one next week.


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